Dreams of Whales

John Koensgen and Mary Ellis


Mary Ellis and John Muggleton

The Extremely Short New Play Festival


Eric Craig in The Book of Daniel by Lawrence Aronovitch in ESNPF 2013

New Theatre of Ottawa

History of the Company

Actors’ Co-op Theatre, as the company was originally called, was established to produce plays that were not being considered by other local professional companies. The Company’s first production was David Mamet’s American Buffalo. It was presented at the National Arts Centre’s (NAC) Atelier in the winter of 1986. Jim Garrard’s Cold Comfort followed in 1989, at the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC).

In 1991, Judgement by Barry Collins opened the new Arts Court Theatre. The show received unanimously rave  reviews and was a landmark production in the professional Ottawa theatre scene. During the 1992-93 season the Company — now New Theatre of Ottawa (NTO) — produced Jim Betts’ family show, The Mystery of the Oak Island Treasure as well as Morris Panych’s 7 Stories. Produced at GCTC and the NAC respectively, both were critical and popular successes.  NTO worked with the host companies to stage the productions. In 1993-94, NTO produced The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel at GCTC. Later that season NTO staged a series of dramatic readings, most of which were presented at the NAC Atelier.  One reading, Terry Eagleton’s Wittgenstein, was held at the Bytowne Cinema. It was followed by a screening of Derek Jarman’s film ,Wittgenstein and a panel discussion about the film, the play and Wittgenstein’s philosophical legacy.

In 1995, we produced Noelle Janaczewska’s The History of Water at the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography.  The dramatic lighting design by Martin Conboy played with ideas of image and space. That same season New Theatre  presented more staged readings and discussions, including “Bilingualism and Schizophrenia” and “Fixing the Self: Vampirism, Addiction and Philosophy”. In addition, we staged a full production of Peter Dwyer’s Blue Panopticon in the National Research Council’s Temple of Science.

In 1997 NTO produced the Canadian premiere of Irish playwright Jimmy Murphy’s Brothers of the Brush. Our venue, like the play’s set, was a building under renovation. The production opened to critical and popular acclaim and its run was sold out.

In 2002 NTO produced Conor McPherson’s St. Nicholas at GCTC. In 2004  we presented Pierre Brault’s wildly successful production of Blood on the Moon,  directed by John Koensgen, at Christ Church Cathedral. The next season NTO appointed John Koensgen as its new Artistic Director. The focus of the company now turned to local writers with an Ottawa connection and new work. Our next production was The Domino Heart by Matthew Edison which was staged in Academic Hall at the University of Ottawa in December of 2006.

In the fall of 2007, New Theatre produced the critically acclaimed one-man show Merz, conceived by and starring Peter Froehlich, at the Cube Gallery. This was followed by a dramatic workshop of Brian Doyle’s book, Up to Low, in association with Easy Street Productions. New Theatre  commissioned and produced the play Disaster by renowned Ottawa poet David O’Meara, staged in June 2008. It played in the Natalie Stern Studio Theatre at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.

Facts, a newly revised play by Arthur Milner, received a workshop in March 2008 . 

In November of 2010, NTO presented a totally new production of St. Nicholas at Cube Gallery. It was a  popular production and was critically well received. Later that season NTO produced Facts by Arthur Milner as a coproduction with GCTC at The Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre. This play was then produced in Israel and Palestine the next year in Arabic and then in the spring of 2013 in English at The Finborough Theatre, London, England to great acclaim.

Our next productions were in the 2011-12 season. They included three original productions: Dreams of Whales by Dean Hawes; The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare by Brian K. Stewart; and finally, The Extremely Short Play Festival with work from 10  playwrights. The season was nominated for numerous awards and garnered 2 Ottawa Critics Circle Awards and 4 Prix Rideau Awards!  The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare went on to tour Queen’s University and The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in the fall of 2012.

The season following NTO presented the second edition of the short play festival and renamed it The Extremely Short New Play Festival 2013. This included 10 new works.

​Midway through 2014 we restaged The Player's Advice to Shakespeare at The Avalon Studio in Ottawa and then brought it to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. That fall we presented The Extremely Short New Play Festival 2014 with all new works.


Awards and Nominations

2007Rideau Award Best Actor Award – Peter Froehlich for Merz

2008Rideau Award Nomination for Best Actor- Paul Rainville for Disaster

2008 Ottawa Golden Cherry Arts Award Best New Play – Disaster by David O’Meara

2010 Rideau Award Nomination Outstanding Performance Female – Mary Ellis for Dreams of Whales

2012Capital Critics’ Circle Nomination Best Production – The Extremely Short Play Festival 

2012 Capital Critics’ Circle Best Actor Award- Greg Kramer for The Player's Advice to Shakespeare

2012Capital Critics’ Circle Best Director Award – John Koensgen for both The Player's Advice to Shakespeare and The Extremely Short Play Festival 

2012 Prix Rideau Awards Nomination for Outstanding Performance Female – Kristina Watt for The Extremely Short Play Festival 

2012 Prix Rideau Award for Outstanding Performance Male – Greg Kramer for The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

2012  Prix Rideau Award for Outstanding Direction – John Koensgen for The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

2012 Prix Rideau Award for Emerging Artist – Brian K. Stewart, playwright of The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

2012  Prix Rideau Award for Best New Creation– The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

2012  Prix Rideau Awards Nomination for Best Production– The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

2012 Prix Rideau Awards Nomination for Derrière le Rideau Award – James Fritz for The Player’s Advice to Shakespeare

2014 Capital Critics’ Circle Best Actor Nomination - David Warburton for The Player's Advice to Shakespeare